I created a primer to this project which explains the way we’ll be ranking all 185 players. It will be a pyramid structure and as we ascend the players will get better and better. Follow along this off-season as we preach about all the wonderful talent that has played for Notre Dame.
Today, we finish the 3rd level of the pyramid.
Consensus or Unanimous All-American
Major CFB Award
43. Joe Beinor, OT, Harvey, Illinois (1936-38)
One of the strongest players in program history who threw the shot put for Lithuania in the Olympics. Beinor earned some All-American honors in 1937 before becoming an unanimous selection in 1938. He also finished 9th in the third-ever awarding of the Heisman Trophy after his senior season.
42. Bill Shakespeare, RB, Staten Island, New York (1933-35)
Shakespeare is certainly in the conversation as Notre Dame’s most decorated all-around player. He was Notre Dame’s career punting leader for over 50 years, still holds the record for longest punt in school history, led the team in rushing as a junior, while leading the team in passing and kickoff return yards over his final 2 seasons. Shakespeare never received consensus All-American honors but is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
41. Bryant Young, DT, Chicago Heights, Illinois (1990-93)
Young is one of only of two defensive tackles who are in the Top 10 in career sacks at Notre Dame with 18 total in his time with the Irish. He was a destructive force on the interior for Notre Dame and is ranked as one of the top handful of defenders of the Lou Holtz era. Surprisingly, Young never made consensus All-American honors but is still remembered as one of the best players from the early 1990’s.
40. Jeff Samardzija, WR, Valparaiso, Indiana (2003-06)
The in-state product had a slow start to his career before re-writing portions of Notre Dame’s record book as an upperclassman. Samardzija tied the school record for receptions in a season in 2005, then broke it in 2006. As a junior, his 1,249 receiving yards broke the Irish single-season record and his 15 touchdowns remains tied for the most in a single year. Samardzija is 3rd in career receptions and receiving yards and was a consensus All-American following the 2005 season.
39. Bob Williams, QB, Baltimore, Maryland (1948-50)
While a baby-faced 19-year old junior, Williams went 10-0, won a National Championship in his first year starting, and would ultimately set the school record for wins to begin a career at 11 games. His 1949 season saw him set the season record for passing efficiency (since tied by Jimmy Clausen) and his yards per attempt that year was the most ever at the time (now 3rd all-time). Williams also punted for the Irish and was an effective running quarterback. He was a consensus All-American in 1949, finished in the top 6 of the Heisman voting his final 2 years, and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
38. Quenton Nelson, OG, Red Bank, New Jersey (2014-17)
It’s somewhat amusing to recall Nelson took a redshirt in 2014 before he began his assault on college football defenders. His career began a bit slowly in 2015 but by 2016 Nelson picked up several All-American honors. For his final season, he won unanimous All-American honors and placed his name as one of Notre Dame’s great guards in history.
37. Jerry Groom, C, Des Moines, Iowa (1948-50)
Noted as an iron man who played both center and linebacker at a very high level. Groom’s heroics on defense with a late interception preserved the win against SMU to win a National Title in 1949. Following his senior season, he was awarded consensus All-American honors and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
36. Tom Clements, QB, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1972-74)
Clements wasn’t always the most effective or flashy passer but his ability to win big games places him very high in the Pyramid rankings. As a 3-year starter, he passed for 3,594 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,070 yards and another 12 scores. When he left Notre Dame he won a National Championship and picked up some All-American honors as a senior while finishing 4th in the Heisman race. Clements is tied for the most wins as a starter in school history and has the 4th best winning percentage for any quarterback.
35. Golden Tate, WR, Hendersonville, Tennessee (2007-09)
Tate is Notre Dame’s only Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s top wide receiver (first given in 1994). His 2009 season saw him finish with the 2nd most all-purpose yards in a season falling 22 yards short of Tim Brown’s record while not being a kick returner unlike Brown. For players who only stayed 3 seasons, only Rocket Ismail had more all-purpose yards in a career at Notre Dame.
His 93 receptions in 2009 was the most ever in a season at the time and 2nd most today. Tate is tied for 5th in career receptions and 2nd in career receiving yards while his 1,496 receiving yards in his junior season is the most by a mile in a season for Notre Dame and his 15 receiving touchdowns remains tied for first in a season. After 2009, Tate was awarded unanimous All-American honors and finished 10th in the Heisman voting.
34. Marchy Schwartz, RB, Bay St. Louis, Missouri (1929-31)
Schwartz won a pair of National Championships in Rockne’s last 2 seasons and was the leading rusher for Notre Dame for both the 1930 and 1931 seasons. His 7.54 yards per rush in 1930 stood as the 2nd best average for a season for over 60 years and is now 3rd all-time. He led Notre Dame in rushing, passing, punting, and scoring over his final 2 seasons. Schwartz’ 15 punts against Army in 1931 is still the school record. When his career was over he was Notre Dame’s 2nd all-time leading rusher. He was a consensus All-American in 1930, unanimous All-American in 1931, and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
33. Steve Niehaus, DT, Cincinnati, Ohio (1972-75)
With all of the defensive talent imagine starting as a true freshman at defensive tackle in 1972 at Notre Dame. That’s what Niehaus accomplished while putting up an incredible 47 tackles (still ranks tied for 8th best for a freshman!) in fewer than 4 full games before being injured for the remainder of the year. He would finish his career with 290 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and was an unanimous All-American in 1975 who finished 12th in Heisman voting that year. Niehaus’ 113 tackles in 1975 remains the most ever in a single season by an Irish defensive lineman.
32. Ralph Guglielmi, QB, Columbus, Ohio (1951-54)
The namesake of Notre Dame’s practice facility was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Irish and unanimous All-American in 1954. In that season, his 17.06 yards per completion was a school-record (now 3rd all-time) and he finished 4th in the Heisman voting. Despite never winning a National Championship, Guglielmi’s 26-3-2 record as starter is 3rd best in Notre Dame history. He also intercepted 10 passes in his career and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
31. Walt Patulski, DE, Liverpool, New York (1969-71)
Patulski started every game of his 3-year career on campus and was one of the best defenders in the country for 1970 and 1971. Over his final 2 seasons he accumulated 34 tackles for loss and his 40 career tackles for loss remains tied for 5th most in school history. A captain of the 1971 squad, Patulski finished 9th in the Heisman voting and was awarded unanimous All-American honors. He was also Notre Dame’s first Lombardi Award winner, given to (then) the best down lineman or linebacker in the country.
30. Brady Quinn, QB, Dublin, Ohio (2003-06)
Despite never being named even a consensus All-American, Quinn re-wrote the Notre Dame record books for passing. He is the Notre Dame season and career leader for pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, total offense, total yards, points responsible, and is tied for the most wins as a starting quarterback in school history. Quinn finished 4th and 3rd respectively in the Heisman voting over his final 2 seasons and was named the Maxwell Award winner for the best all-around college football player following 2006.
29. Jim Seymour, WR, Royal Oak, Michigan (1966-68)
Seymour burst on to the scene in the 1966 opener with 13 catches for 276 yards against Purdue, both school records at the time. The yardage remains the best-ever at Notre Dame while the receptions was finally eclipsed in 2005. Seymour would lead the Irish in receiving all 3 seasons and when he graduated his 138 receptions were the most in school history, now 9th all-time. One of the best big-play receivers in the country, Seymour’s receiving yards per game remains 2nd best in Notre Dame history. Somehow, he was never even a consensus All-American but was a key playmaker on the ’66 explosive offense that went on to win the National Championship.